Reinstall Tutorial

Home Windows Reinstall Tutorial

.·. why reinstall Windows?

Windows gets clogged up with old software, especially if you install, uninstall and reinstall applications frequently, which tends to happen a good deal when you mix an Internet connection and general curiosity. Uninstalled applications occasionally leave bloated "tools" installed and more often large amounts of data in the Registry, your system background can become weighed down with tasks that load silently at start-up, essential system programs can be forced to perform non-essential cycles induced by other installed/uninstalled software. It's hard to rectify all these problems through tweaking alone, and due to the way Windows was designed (or not designed you could say) the best option is to simply start again.


It may sound scary and plenty of work, however if you are keen on speed, reinstalling Windows could be the best speed tweak you ever implement. Usually, most of the fear is inexperience, if you've never reinstalled Windows then I don't think this page will be useful to you, since it expects a little experience. After that people tend to get worried that they won't get their computer back to the state it was before they reinstalled Windows.


My tutorial describes how to restore your Windows setup to it's pre-reinstall state, quickly and with less effort, however while still delivering all the usual benefits that clean reinstalling Windows provides. I hope you find it useful.

.·. clean installing .·.

We have established that reinstalling Windows will give your computer a fresh turn of speed, and can solve a miriad of software related problems. However this is only really the case if you do your Windows reinstallation, cleanly. This usually means, formating your hard-disc, and thus losing all the data containing therein, and starting completely from scratch.

So what's a "dirty" reinstall and how does it differ to the clean variety? If you reinstall Windows over the top of an old Windows install, this is considered "unclean". The new installation will be a muddled and messy conbination of the old and the new. There are certain advantages to this method, mainly it can be a time saver. However most people shun it, certainly me included, to me the outcome is too unpredictable and, well, messy! A clean install is just that; clean. Ready for fresh abuse and new exploration.

Your typical clean install involves the following:

  • Backup all crucial data.
  • Use Windows boot-disk to boot to DOS.
  • Enter at the prompt:

    format c:

  • Reinstall Windows the from Windows Setup CD-ROM.
  • Tweak Windows.
  • Reinstall all applications and other software.
  • Make a cup of tea.
  • Realise that you forgot to backup something CRUCIAL!! Bang head on nearest wall.

I don't recommend this method, but I do recommend installing Windows cleanly. The next section details my preferred method of clean installation.

Despite the fact I don't approve of this method, if you did try it, it's probable that you would be so impressed by the fresh turn of speed of speed to your Windows setup that you would want to do it more frequently; perhaps every few months, or even every few weeks. Thus routine will render repeating the above steps irritating, mundane and time-consuming, but nevertheless, rewarding. I faced this problem, so I developed ways to make reinstalling Windows less of a headache, they are detailed below.

.·. clean install without formating .·.

It is easy to clean install Windows without formating first, and since formating wastes vast amounts of time, I strongly recommend the following method!

To ensure Windows is installed "cleanly", simply clear the root directory, delete c:\WINDOWS\*.* and rename C:WINDOWS\. This is accomplished with the following steps:

  • Boot to DOS using a Windows boot-disk.
  • Enter the following at the prompt:

    attrib c:\*.* -s -h -r

    delete *.* /Y

    delete c:\windows\*.* /Y

    rename windows fred

  • Install Windows from the Windows Setup CD-ROM

The DOS command attrib is used because the root directory contains many hidden and system files that need to be removed.

C:\WINDOWS\*.* should be cleared because setup picks up on some files in this directory to tell if you have a previous Windows install even if the Windows directory has been renamed. Renaming the Windows directory ensures that after you have installed freshly you can retrieve old DLL files etc. .

This install is clean because there will be no interaction between the new install and the old. The old Windows install has been moved to the sidelines, and the root directory has been wiped. Nothing else is important.

This doesn't mean you should skip backing up your hard-disc! Data-loss is still common enough to warrant it. However, avoiding a format means you won't need to restore all your data after reinstallation, it of course also means backing up crucial data before reinstllation is not necessary, but as said, I still recommend you do this every so often.

.·. speeding up the reinstallation process .·.

Reading from the hard-disc is much faster than from the CD-ROM. Thus, the whole reinstall process can be speeded up greatly if the setup files are transfered from the Windows Setup CD-ROM to the hard-disk. This set of commands at a prompt will copy the required files to the hard-disk:

  • Insert Windows Setup CD-ROM.
  • Enter the following commands at an MS-DOS Prompt:

    md c:\98setup

    copy d:\win98\*.* c:\98setup

    Then to install Windows:

  • Boot to DOS with a Windows boot-disk.
  • Enter the following commands:



Before doing the above ensure you have enough space for both a fresh Windows install (unless you plan to entirely delete C:\WINDOWS\*\*, which I don't recommend, see above section), and the Windows Setup files.

You might note that none of the subdirectories in D:\WIN98\ are copied, they are not necessary. If you are reinstalling a different version of Windows9x the directory to copy from will not be D:\WIN98\ it would be D:\WINME or whatever, it should be obvious.

.·. further methods to speed up reinstallation .·.

Using Smartdrive will speed up DOS hard-disc operations, so load it before doing anything requiring hard-disc operations at DOS prompt. To load Smartdrive type:


Finally, I advise use of all the SETUP.EXE command line switches to speed up the install further (detailed in the next section).

.·. SETUP.EXE switches .·.

Ensure you leave a single space before every switch, or the switches won't work. I recommend the use of all these switches.

  • /im Skips the memory check(???)
  • /id Skips the check for free disk space (make sure you have sufficient!)
  • /is Doesn't run scandisk
  • /iq Skips the check for cross-linked files(???)
  • /ie Doesn't create an Emergency Boot Disk
  • /ih Skips Registry consistency check(???)
  • /iv Doesn't display those properganda boards during install


setup /id /is /ih

.·. preserving application settings .·.

Software settings are generally kept in one of two places, the registry and INI files. To preserve the settings from the registry the use of the Registry Editor (REGEDIT.EXE) is required.

  • Make a new folder: C:\AID
  • Open up REGEDIT.EXE.
  • Head to the key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Colors.
  • Export (File Menu) this REG key to C:\AID\COLOUR.REG.
  • Head to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software.
  • Export this REG key to C:\AID\SETTINGS_USER.REG.
  • Head to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software.
  • Export this REG key to C:\AID\SETTINGS_LM.REG.

Thus you will have three REG files that can be later merged with the registry of the new Windows installation (right click on the REG files, select merge, click OK). However the two files will contain references to software that hasn't uninstalled correctly, and plenty of junk courtesy of Microsoft (may God bankrupt them soon). Both files should be perused with Notepad before being merged with your nice, new, clean registry. You should remove everything from the Microsoft Key. If you like you can leave references to Office and the like, but at your own risk! Microsoft are very messy with the Registry (and things in general), and merging their keys can cause problems. Whatever, do not merge the Windows key, and anything to do with their Internet suite (Internet Explorer and Outlook Express). If you do merge these keys all your effort to install Windows cleanly will be voided.

The settings in INI files are much easier to preserve. All that is required is copying all the INI files to your backup directory and after reinstallation, copying them back. At a Prompt:


copy *.INI C:\AID

I suggest you delete WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI, if these are copied back then you are simply dirtying your new install.

.·. avoiding application reinstallation .·.

When a program is installed it throws files all over your hard-disc, usually restricted to it's install directory and the Windows System directory (C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM). Thus after your clean install without formating all the program's files will be still in the correct places on the hard-disc, with the exception of any files that were in the root directory or the Windows directory and subdirectories.

Very few programs, bar the operating system, store anything important in the root directory. Thus the only files that will be amiss are files that the application expects to be in the Windows directories.

Launching applications after clean installing Windows will more often than not alert the user to the missing files, most of which will be missing DLLs, these should all be found in your backup of the old Windows install. If the program keeps asking for more and more files or eventually loads but doesn't work properly it may be easier just to reinstall the software. This method works best with small, lean applications, huge bloated applications require huge bloated installs and may not function at all without being reinstalled (Office 2000 is the most stubborn I've met).

If you want to quickly and easily see what files an application cannot find use SysInternals' Filemon. This program monitors file operations and can be set to highlight files that cannot be found by applications. Thus you can find out exactly what files to move/copy to a directory the application can read from; the same one as the executable (it's own) or a directory on the path (C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM for example). I used Filemon to strip Norton Utilities of all but Speed Disk (80MB down to 2.5MB), I needed Speed Disk, but, nothing else. Using this method I have a self contained version of Speed Disk that functions fully after Clean Installs because all the files it needs are contained in the same directory as it's executable.

I personally prefer to do everything this way as it tends to result in a cleaner registry and filesystem, also you know exactly what has been altered with your fresh install if you move the files yourself.

This method takes some experience, so feel free to mail me any questions you may have.

.·. putting it all together .·.

Here I put all of the above together to make following the entire process easier. The individual sections are colour coded for clarity, the steps that are necessary to achieve a standard clean install (without format) are displayed in white.

Firstly an overview of the process, a version of this list follows which contains full details.

  diag 1

As before, but with greater detail:

  diag 2

.·. final details .·.

When should you delete the old Windows Install? I'd leave it there a few weeks, if you can afford the space, you may need a few of it's files, don't burn your bridges!

If you have any questions, please contact me. I really look forward to hearing from you!